Why are men more likely to die from skin cancer than women?

That's the question that researchers are scurrying to answer after new research from Cancer Research UK revealed that men are 70 percent more likely to die from malignant melanoma — the most serious type of skin cancer — than women. This despite that the incidence of diagnosis is roughly the same for men and women, 17.2 men compared to 17.3 women per 100,000. So it's not that men get skin cancer more often than women, but that they die from it more often. Why?

One possible reason is that men are generally less likely to see a doctor than women, particularly for something as innocuous as a suspicious area on their skin. Another explanation is that men and women tend to get skin cancer in different places. Women are more likely to develop skin cancer on their arms and legs while men get spots on their chest and back — areas that they may not be able to see or keep track of easily.  

These are two good reasons why men are more likely to be diagnosed when their skin cancer is at a more advanced stage and less responsive to treatment than women who may seek treatment earlier in the progression of the disease. But there's more.

“But there also seem to be strong biological reasons behind the differences, and we're working on research to better understand why men and women's bodies deal with their melanomas in different ways," said Professor Julia Newton-Bishop, a Cancer Research UK dermatologist based at the University of Leeds.  

In the meantime, health experts suggest that men ask their partners to help them keep track of suspicious areas. And they recommend that both men and women take precautions to protect themselves from the sun by covering up, using sunscreen, and staying out of the sun during peak hours.  

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